What Are Your Thoughts On Hiring Two Consulting Firms At The Same Time?

In the past year I ran into a situation (mid-project in the capacity as an independent consultant) where the client was incorporating materials from my deliverables plus information from one of the major, worldwide strategy consulting firms that was also working in the same area as I was. In this case, I think it was beneficial because it is a high-stakes strategy area which requires mutiple perspectives, innovation, and cross-checking.

Yet it made me recall some other situations where other consulting firms had been used in closely-related or overlapping areas. Highlight memories include:

  • Bringing in a partner consulting firm to round out industry-specific knowledge to complement our functional knowledge expertise
  • Having an internal consulting group monitoring the progress of a larger, external consulting firm
  • Having an adjacent room on the client site to a "competing" consulting firm
  • Getting the consulting firms to work out and remove overlapping work areas by request of the CEO
  • Having the consulting groups to exchange, provide feedback, and critique the other firm's deliverables and engagement progress
  • Setting up the upstream consulting firm (e.g., strategy) to complement that downstream consulting firm (e.g., IT implementation)

Although there are many trends by companies to try reduce the number of suppliers (even in the professional services area), there are benefits of using multiple consultants. Some tradeoffs and considerations:

  • Getting the consultants to cooperate
  • Inefficiency created by overlapping work
  • Benefits by factoring in best perspectives from each firm (similar to the way some of the most innovative firms use a larger network design architects to feed ideas)
  • Keeping each of the consulting teams on their toes

What are your experiences and thoughts about using multiple, management consultants and/or consulting firms?


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2 Replies to “What Are Your Thoughts On Hiring Two Consulting Firms At The Same Time?”

  1. Two contradictory opinions come to mind: 1) utilizing two firms keeps each firm on their best and most competitive behavior, 2) if you do not trust “me”, I will gladly step back and allow those whom you do trust complete the task.
    It is important that the engaging firm realizes that you were hired for your expertise and ability and that trust and respect in your strategies and input allows for a much more rewardable experience and outcome. Recent past history has created a distrust in the professional services industry as a whole, that must be mitigated with a transparent approach to business, relationship, and input. There is no room for games.

  2. Joshua, thanks for sharing your perspectives. At least based on my experience, it seems like #1 of the two you mentioned is more common. That said, I’ve never directly asked a client why they’ve hired two or more consultants, so I’m only making a guess based on how I see them treating the firms. I will add this question to my list of questions to ask clients going-forward!

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